This top-flight 2.1 package exudes design class but still left us hankering for more speakers
Great care has clearly been lavished on the BDS-477’s exterior. This is a swish-looking piece of kit, especially in the white version, and it comes with an amazing remote that manages to be busier than the M25 on a wet Monday morning and yet looks as minimalist as the main unit (and has tiny, illegible labels). The subwoofer and satellites are reassuringly solid and all moving parts are beautifully engineered. Socketry is generous with no shortage of digital and analogue inputs.
Things go downhill a tad when you switch the unit on and start to use it. It’s not complicated, but the user interface is bereft of colour and icons, and the Smart TV menu consists of just two dishes – YouTube and Picasa. At least multimedia matters extend to DLNA, AirPlay, Bluetooth and USB streaming (but sadly it can’t handle FLAC files). Calibration is a cinch thanks to the EzSet/EQ system.
Picture-wise, the BDS-477 does little wrong. The explorers in the cave in Prometheus (Blu-ray) are crystal clear, as is the gloomy background. Overall, clarity is good, as is contrast, and colours are vibrant and realistic.
CGI material such as Rise Of The Guardians looks stunning, and this Blu-ray disc also provides an excellent test for the 2.1 system, where three speakers have to try and deliver the zesty excitement usually created in a multichannel configuration thanks to an outstanding Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack.
In themselves, the Sat-60s are great little speakers but it’s hard not to feel that the BDS-477 is a few satellites short of an AV picnic, with discrete effects that normally zip around multichannel rears or sides greatly lacking in impact. Dialogue is rich and resonant but the scrapes of Jack Frost’s hook in the ice and the fairies’ fluttering wings seem constrained and a little lifeless. Switching from stereo to either of the Dolby virtual surround modes boosts matters somewhat.
The 200W subwoofer is an aggressive beast with an astonishing level of power, such that the vibrating carriage in the immediate aftermath of Super 8’s train wreck positively throws in a free foot massage. One senses that the addition of some surround channels and a dedicated centre would provide a better solution to its over-dominance rather than having to reduce the sub’s gain. With music material the tonal balance is a much better fit.
Overall, the BDS-477 is a mixed bag. It looks superb and is capable of serving up top-notch acoustics but its dull interface and variable handling of surround sound movies renders it more suitable for a second room setup.
Harman Kardon BDS-477
Price: £1,100 Approx
Highs: Stylish design; excellent connectivity; top-notch pictures; beautifully engineered
Lows: Illegible buttons on remote control; outdated menu system; overbearing sub
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